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The Way of the Wild eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 268 pages of information about The Way of the Wild.

The voles knew nothing about any dam—­then.  They were satisfied to explore the cliff-top and the crevices, to discover the tiny eggs of a coal-tit, and remark on their flavor; to nose into every crook and corner that came in their way; to learn the excellent facilities the place offered for setting up housekeeping; and to discover that no other bank-voles appeared to have found their way up there.

This took time, for they naturally had to flirt in between, and so it happened that the sun had been up some while before they finally set to improvising a home, in a partially earth-filled rocky cleft, with their own sturdy forepaws.  They had got so far as to dig in out of sight, turning every few seconds to push out the loose earth, when the dam up above broke, and a few hundred, or thousand, for all I know, tons of water dropped into the valley—­crash!

And thus it happened that, when the sun set, those two little, big-headed, blunt-nosed bank-voles, looking out upon an endless sea of water, above which the top halves of the trees in the wood rose like mangroves, were, save for a few that had climbed into trees and would starve, the only bank-voles left alive, to repopulate that valley with bank-voles, out of all the teeming thousands whose burrows had honeycombed every bank in the vicinity.  Verily, how strange is Fate, “who makes, who mars, who ends!”

XVI

THE EAGLES OF LOCH ROYAL

  He makes a solitude, and calls it—­peace.—­BYRON.

  He comes, the false disturber of my quiet. 
  Now, vengeance, do thy worst.—­SHERIDAN.

The rising sun came striding over the edge of the world, and presented the mountain with a golden crown; later it turned the rolling, heaving mystery of the mists below into a sea of pure amber.  A tiny falcon—­a merlin—­shot up out of the mist, hung for a moment, whilst the sun transformed his wings to purple bronze, and fell again, vanishing instantly.  Next, a cock-grouse, somewhere below the amber sea, crowed aloud to proclaim the day, and a raven mocked at him hoarsely.

Then, and not till then, the Chieftain awoke.  The Chieftain showed as a chocolate, golden-brown, wedge-shaped mass of feathers, perched on a lonely pinnacle of rock, and, his appalling, razor-edged claws being hidden under the overhanging feathers of his legs, he was scarcely striking.  Next moment he opened his eyes, and was no longer mean, for he was a golden eagle, and the eyes of a golden eagle are terrible.  In them are written hauteur, pride, and arrogant fierceness beyond anything on this earth; there is also contempt that has no expression in speech.  He shot out his neck, clapped his talon-like beak, and gazed out, over the mist that hid Loch Royal, to the south shore of the loch, where lived his son.  The loch was, as it were, their frontier, the boundary-line that divided the hunting-grounds of father and son, and it was seldom crossed by either bird.

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